(This is Part 3, it will make a lot more sense if you have read parts 1 and 2 first!)
If Love is what it's all about, what is Love?
In our consumer culture we sentimentalize, compartmentalize, sanitize and minimalize “love” until all its power has been wrung out and what’s left is as vapid and insipid as the latest top 40 "love" song.
I mentioned that the early Jesus-Followers invented a new word (agape) to differentiate the Love they were talking about from the more commonly used terms then being used for "love" in all its various meanings.
What is agape?
Agape is the Love that Jesus modeled and taught. The best way to learn what agape really is is to study Jesus' life. He incarnated (embodied) God's Love so we could SEE what He meant and He called on His followers to do the same so that the rest of the world could see what real Love is by observing us.
When we look at Jesus' life we learn that real Love is...
Unmerited, unconditional, unlimited.
Compassion in action.
Costly: It demands that we daily die to self, for Love is the opposite of selfishness.
Real Love is hard- regularly putting others needs above my own desires.
Real Love is hard- it does not exclude anyone just because they are different, messed up, dirty, unlovely, unworthy, immoral, antagonistic, unlikeable, irreligious, arrogant, depressed, ugly, stupid or off-putting in any other way.
Real love is hard- because it never takes a vacation. If we rest or recreate, it is because we are finite and need to recharge our batteries so we can resume the demanding life of Love.
Real love, Jesus taught and modeled, extends even toward our enemies.
The opposite, or absence, of this Love is what the Bible calls "sin".
Because we are born into a race marred by sin (selfishness), we are incapable of consistently exercising this type of Love on our own. We need to have God's Spirit of Love indwelling and empowering us or we won't stand a chance and we'll soon get frustrated and give up on a life of Love in favor of something easier like a life of pleasure or achievement or religious performance.
But before we get into the specifics, we need to do a little theology. Because unless and until we understand the two most unique doctrines in Christianity- the Trinity and Grace - we won't be able to fully understand, much less experience Agape Love. Let's begin at the beginning: With the Triune God.